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“When Mickey Loses Face”: Article Summary


Since the beginning of the 20th century, the phenomenon of cultural transference has become extremely relevant in the context of multinational enterprises’ development. According to recent research, the paradigm of business is now engaged in activities aimed at finding a balance between the globalization trend and unification of products and its unique approach to every local market (Soprana, 2017). Thus, this academic summary aims at summarizing and presenting Mary Yoko Brannen’s research on the concept of foreignness in the context of multinational enterprises (MNEs).

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Research Question

In the article itself, Brannen (2004) presents a case scenario of cultural transference of Disney’s theme parks in Japan and France. Considering the controversial outcomes of the transference precedents, she develops the following research question: “Could there be any theoretical contributions to the matter of foreignness and internationalization by bringing a new frame of reference concerning the dynamics of cultural transference?” (Brannen, 2004, p. 595).

Consequently, the problem raised by the author aims at giving insight to the sphere of recontextualization, which stands for the process of organizational assets obtaining new meanings when introduced in other cultures and socio-political backgrounds of the target stakeholders. The understanding of recontextualization, in its turn, should catalyze a more reasonable and profound perception of the host country’s reception dynamics (Brannen, 2004). The dynamics encompass the notions of semantic fit and semiotics of foreignness.

Motivation and Relevance

The motivation to conduct the research on the matter of recontextualization and semiotics of cultural transference was primarily catalyzed by the existing lacuna in terms of understanding the shifting process. The empirical data on the Disney’s cultural transference in Japan and France demonstrated that the general perception of the target culture’s general prerequisites was insufficient to secure the successful transition of the product and services. Thus, such a precedent motivated Brannen (2004) to define whether an extended model of understanding the dynamics of transferring a specific service to another culture even when the given culture had many characteristics in common with the source product.

The relevance of the research is characterized by the international context of the publication’s year. In 2004, while world history began to witness the genesis of globalization, the notion of cultural interaction was biased and suppressed in the aftermath of 9/11 (Brannen, 2004). Hence, the inquiry of the cultural transference dynamics made sense in a society driven by the internationalization of the products yet struggling with an ethical perspective of its realization.

Theoretical Framework

In order to define the extent of the existing lacuna in terms of recontextualization, Brannen (2004) placed major emphasis on the analysis of current literature available on the matter of semiotics of cultural transference. Thus, the theoretical framework of the study comprises two major constituents. The first part of the research addresses the notion of foreignness and fits the context of MNEs’ functioning and expansion policies. Consequently, the author analyzes the phenomenon of language as a primary tool in terms of cross-cultural communication.

In the first part, Brannen dwells on the analysis of theoretical models outlined by such scholars as Kostova, Zaheer, and Mezias with the aim to define the environmental factors from which the foreignness of an MNE may benefit. Additionally, she addresses the cases when the origin of the source product alters its perception by hosts (Brannen, 2004). In terms of another theoretical approach to the issue, the author prioritizes contextual and semantic analysis as primary linguistic frameworks to analyze the relevance of specific communicative environments to the message rendered across the cultures. The author concludes by indicating that the absence of an umbrella approach that would encompass both linguistic means and strategic fit of cultural transference is a fundamental lacuna that stands in the way of accelerating successful cross-cultural communication.

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The present study encompasses a variety of methodologies in order to secure a qualitative outcome. Thus, the overall study is secondary and qualitative, as it uses data collected by other researchers and archives, while the overall linguistics-oriented hypothesis could not be measured quantitively. The first part of the research is dedicated to the descriptive, theoretical studies that encompass a number of approaches to the existing regularities of organizational and cultural transference of the products and the theoretical framework of language and semantics as potential contributors to the transference dynamics. The other part of the research is a case study that dwells on the analysis of some of the major semiotic signifies of the Disney World and their interpretations in the US, Japan, and France. The data is primarily collected from such primary sources as Disney Archive and Anaheim Public Library (Brannen, 2004). The aforementioned signifiers are later regarded from a contextual perspective of the three cultures.

Results and Arguments

The findings of the present article justify the current demand for reconsideration and reorganization of the existing framework of cultural transference as umbrella terms for such notions as products, ideologies, and practices. The primary argument outlined after the analysis is the relevance of the linguistic phenomenon in terms of transferring the firm’s assets, as recontextualization cannot be employed without explicit reference to the linguo-communicative environment of the target recipient. The author claims the distinct differentiation between positive and negative recontextualization that serves either as a benefit or a liability for the product’s introduction in the culture. However, she argues that the current approach to strategic alignment that focuses solely on the organizational perspective disrupts the establishment of factors that result in a purely positive or negative contextualization.


The present study created by Mary Yoko Brannen focuses on the phenomenon of recontextualization and semiotics within the process of firm assets’ cultural transference to different markets. It has been established during the study that various contextual models of language perception that derive from a number of scholarly perspectives contribute significantly to the analysis of the target recontextualization environment. The study ends with a thesis that recontextualization and its awareness serve as catalysts for the reinforcement of internationalization patterns in the global market.


Brannen, M. Y. (2004). When Mickey loses face: Recontextualization, semantic fit, and the semiotics of foreignness. Academy of Management Review, 29(4), 593-616. Web.

Soprana, V. M. (2017). A theoretical outline of the importance of cross-cultural and pragmatic awareness in the business scenario. BELT-Brazilian English Language Teaching Journal, 8(1), 102-121. Web.

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